From midnight on Monday, the United States will become the latest nation to extend travel restrictions on British nationals, amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
The situation will doubtless be of concern not only to those who are currently abroad in affected countries, but also those planning a trip in coming weeks.
According to ABTA, a trade association for tour operators and travel agents in the UK, the current situation is ‘extraordinary’, with official advice changing rapidly.
It advises: ‘Given the extraordinary volume of enquiries, and the rapidly changing situation, the best course of action for travellers with future bookings is to monitor and follow Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice for the destination they are travelling to, and wait for their travel provider to contact them if the situation changes in regards to their booking.
‘Many travel companies are doing all they can to offer flexible booking policies at this time, such as giving customers the option to change their departure dates without charge, so we’d recommend talking to them about the options that are open to you..
Just how will the latest travel restrictions due to coronavirus affect British travellers?
So just what are the restrictions that have been put in place, which countries can you not travel to and can you claim a full refund if coronavirus affects your holiday?
Here are the answers to some of the most pressing questions for travellers right now:
Which countries have the Government advised against travel to?
The FCO currently advises against all but essential travel to: Spain, Italy, Czech Republic, Vietnam, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores (Portugal), Malta, Albania, Mainland China, Vietnam, Peru, Argentina, Philippines, some island resorts in the Maldives (Kuredu, Vilemendhu, Batalaa and Kuramathi), San Marino, Cheongdo in South Korea, Mongolia and Liberia. The FCO also advises against all travel to Daegu in South Korea.
What happens if my travel plans are affected?
If the FCO advises against travel to a destination and your holiday arrangements have been affected, your travel provider will get in touch and advise you of the options open to you. Travellers are also advised to read the FCO travel advice for the country they are travelling to.
Can I postpone my trip?
Many travel companies and airlines are trying to offer more flexible booking policies, such as giving customers the option to change their travel date should they wish to postpone their holiday. In certain circumstances this may not be possible. Customers should speak to their travel provider to discuss their options.
If the Foreign Office has advised against travel to a country, specific resort or area of a country, does my travel company have to give me a full refund?
This depends on how you booked your holiday and what the terms and conditions say. If you booked individual services from different companies you should contact the travel companies concerned to see what alternatives or options they can offer. Whether you are entitled to a refund if you do not use the services will depend on the specific terms of each company. Talk to your travel provider if you’ve booked a package holiday. They may be able to offer an alternative holiday or departure date. Alternatively, you may be entitled to a full refund of the package price. You should also check with your travel insurer to see whether you have any cover available under the policy.
The FCO currently advises against travel to 21 destinations due to the coronavirus outbreak
I’m not due to travel for a while yet – can I still get a full refund?
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice is in relation to imminent departures,. If you have booked a package and are not due to travel imminently, tour operators will decide on an ongoing basis how far in advance they’ll begin offering alternative arrangements or providing refunds.
If my holiday is cut short because of the Coronavirus outbreak, am I entitled to compensation?
You won’t be entitled to any compensation, as the reason for the holiday not continuing is outside the control of the tour operator.
I’m not sure about going ahead with my holiday. Can I cancel and get compensation?
The Government will advise against travel to a destination when it judges the level of risk to be unacceptably high. If there is no Government advice against travel to your destination, you’re free to make the choice not to go, but there’s no obligation on your holiday company to give you a refund. Normal cancellation charges will apply.
It is highly unlikely that you will be able to claim any cancellation charge on your insurance as there isn’t normally cover for disinclination to travel, but you can check the terms of your policy.
There are a number of public areas and attractions that are now closed in the destination that I am travelling to – can I get a refund if I cancel my holiday?
This would not normally give you the right to a refund. If excursions or attractions that are included in the price of your holiday are closed or can’t go ahead, and this significantly changes your package holiday or impacts your overall experience, then you might be entitled to a refund. If you are aware of such limitations, then speak to your travel company to discuss your options.
Global travel has taken a significant downturn due to the coronavirus outbreak
Axa, Aviva, the Post Office and InsureAndGo have limited their policies for claims relating to coronavirus. Admiral and LV= have suspended travel insurance sales completely. Why is this?
According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), trips already booked abroad under existing policies remain unaffected. Travel insurance for new customers remains available, but people should shop around for the cover that best meets their needs. Some companies have paused their sales of travel insurance. Insurers take account of when any risk becomes more of a probability than a possibility and then make commercial decisions.
If I ignore any government advice against all but essential travel, will my travel insurance still cover me?
If you travel against government advice then you are likely to invalidate your travel insurance. If you are unsure, check with your travel insurer.
If I cancel my travel plans can I claim any cancellation costs on my travel insurance?
Travel insurance may cover non-refundable cancellation costs, in specific circumstances. These may include medical advice against you or a member of your group from travelling or government advice against travelling. Check your travel insurance policy. Travel insurance is not designed to cover ‘disinclination to travel’ where the FCO has not advised against travel.
What is ‘essential’ travel Does my holiday come under this?
You should check with your travel insurer if the reasons for your trip would or would not invalidate your travel insurance. A holiday to the area is unlikely to be considered as essential.
If I am in an area and the Government advice is to return home, will my travel insurer cover any additional costs for getting back to the UK?
Travel insurance policies may cover some out-of-pocket losses, and also help you to leave the area if a warning to return back to the UK comes into effect while you are there, if you are unable to get assistance from any other source. You should keep up to date with government advice on the FCO website.
I’m abroad and I’ve had to go into quarantine. Will my insurance cover for anything?
If you are required to be quarantined while abroad, you should be covered by your insurance policy, including any relevant medical expenses that are required. Your insurer may consider additional travel expenses at the end of the quarantined period to allow you to return home. Check with your insurer if you have any questions. Many policies can be extended for a specific period, if you are unavoidably detained from returning to the UK.
For more information, see ABTA’s advice page at abta.com/coronavirus and ABI at www.abi.org.uk